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New Retail Kiosk Enables RFID-based Sales

Stora Enso's Intelligent Cabinet features an RFID reader and an antenna to capture the unique ID numbers of tagged goods, enabling un-manned sales for food, beverages or other consumer goods by retailers in such places as office buildings, malls and schools.
By Claire Swedberg

The unit comes with a screen on top that offers promotional content about the goods for sale. It has a glass door that displays those items. When a consumer approaches the unit, he or she can first read a QR code on the front of the cabinet via a smartphone. The phone will access the website, where payment information can then be collected. The user provides his or her payment information, which can be accomplished through a variety of payment services, depending on the what is commonly used in that area.

The Stora Enso software receives the payment data and releases the door lock. At that time, the individual can open the door, remove any item he or she wants and then close the door. The action of shutting the cabinet prompts the reader to scan the RFID tags inside the unit and identify which items are missing, thereby enabling it to determine what has been removed by that customer. The system then charges the individual accordingly for the purchased goods.

Martin Ros
The format allows users to select a variety of products for a single transaction. That is key, Ros says, since shoppers are more likely to purchase several items if all of those goods are presented to them for a single transaction (as opposed to traditional vending machines, in which each item must be purchased separately). Once the transaction is complete, the cabinet is ready for reuse.

Stora Enso provided all of the hardware in the cabinet, including the reader and antennas. Ros says the software can not only enable purchases, but also trigger replenishment orders based on inventory counts. What's more, it can provide historical data and analytics based on time, date and conditions during sales. That information could include the days and times at which most purchases are made, or the temperatures when items were purchased, thereby enabling the retailer to adjust the products and inventory levels being sold at a location accordingly.

Temperature data can also be collected and forwarded, along with the RFID read data, to help retailers ensure products are being maintained at optimal temperatures. With the cabinet, Ros says, "Retailers can get to the consumers where they are." Those locations can include fitness centers, schools, malls and airports, he notes.

Initial pilots are being conducted with retailers and restaurant café operators in China and Europe, and Stora Enso is also in discussions with other companies in greater Asia and North America. The solution was launched May 14. In addition to the cabinets, RFID tags and software-as-a-service (SaaS), Stora Enso can provide consultation regarding RFID tag encoding and proper application to products.

The second half of this year will see more early adopters for testing and deployments, Ros says. They can offer food and beverages, he adds, but other small consumer goods could be sold as well, such as personal electronics, workout equipment at a health club, or ski goggles at a ski resort, for instance.

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